MADDOCK, ND – North Dakota health officials are issuing a warning after a man brought a raccoon into a Maddock bar, potentially exposing patrons to rabies.

The state Department of Health and Human Services issued the warning on Tuesday, September 13, saying that the raccoon entered the bar on Tuesday, September 6.

Health officials said anyone who has been bitten by a raccoon or has come in contact with raccoon saliva should talk to a health professional as soon as possible about the risk of rabies.

“Because rabies is a serious disease with a fatality rate of nearly 100%, we are making this information available to the public as a precautionary measure,” said state epidemiologist Amanda Bakken.

Bar manager Cindy Smith said she was working the night a woman brought the raccoon to a bar in Maddock, a town in Benson County in northeastern North Dakota.

“A local girl would come in and drink,” Smith said. The raccoon in question is tucked under her arms.

Bar management immediately told the woman to leave, and she proceeded to show off the raccoon to a few bar patrons before Smith was able to get her out the door.

According to Smith, the raccoon never touched the floor or another customer. “I’m sure the animal won’t bite anyone,” she said.

Smith said she heard the woman found the raccoon as a baby on the side of the road.

“Some of the locals don’t believe it actually happened,” Smith said of the raccoon’s visit to the pub.

Police believe this happened and are trying to find the owner of the raccoon, according to Smith. Keeping a raccoon or skunk as a pet is illegal in North Dakota, health officials said.

“We’re on a big raccoon hunt in Madoc,” Smith joked.

The bar’s staff and patrons have named the animal “Rocky the Raccoon,” and she says they all plan to dress up as raccoons this Halloween. She hopes no more animals will be brought into their facility.

Rabies, a viral infection, affects mammals, including humans. The virus is widespread in wildlife in the US and is most commonly found in bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes. Rabid wildlife can spread rabies to unvaccinated cats, dogs and livestock, which can infect humans.

“The virus is often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, and rabies can be transmitted if saliva or nervous system tissue from a rabid animal gets into open cuts and wounds, or into the eyes, nose or mouth. The virus attacks the nervous system and causes swelling of the brain.” There is no treatment and rabies is almost always fatal,” the department said in the warning.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends taking these precautions to reduce your risk of rabies.

  • Try to keep stray animals and wildlife, especially skunks, away from pets and livestock.
  • Keep dogs, cats, horses and ponies up to date on rabies vaccinations.
  • Do not leave exposed litter or pets outside as this may attract wild or stray animals.
  • Do not approach strangers or wild animals.
  • Learn how to prevent animal bites, especially in children. Teach children to never handle unknown animals without the permission of a parent or guardian and the owner of the animal.
  • Report any stray or unusual animals to local animal control authorities.
  • Bat-proof your home to prevent bats from entering and interacting with people or pets.
  • Avoid contact with animals when traveling, especially internationally.

Six rabies have been spotted in North Dakota this year; Among them were two bats, two cats, a cow and a skunk. For more information about rabies, visit

ndhealth.gov/disease/rabies

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